We hear a lot about discovering ourselves. About becoming a better person
through self discovery. I am a little afraid of what I might discover about
myself. I am not sure that I can be put into categories. As so many of my
character traits seem to contradict the one before it.
For example, I am a person who has great difficulty thinking outside of the
box. A few years back we spent a summer in London while my husband
completed an internship. Though we had a furnished apartment, I came to
realize that it was probably furnished by a single man. Within the first
few hours I discovered that there were no dish towels and as we hadn’t made
a stop at the grocery store on the way in there were also no paper towels.
And here is where the “not thinking outside of the box” comes in. One of
the children spilled their drink and I was at a loss as to how to clean it
up. Luckily, my friend Ann had no such problem. She reached down, grabbed
one of the children’s socks right off their foot and cleaned up the spill.
It was like witnessing a miracle. How in the world had she ever thought to
I am also the person who might stand dumbfounded at the gym if someone is on
my treadmill. I realize that there are fifteen other treadmills but that
one is away from the fan which is too much for just a warm up run. It is
also directly in front of the television that plays ESPN and more
importantly plays the Top Ten Plays every morning for my warm up run as
though it were playing it just for me.
So maybe you could describe me as rigid. But no, that wouldn’t be quite
right. Most of my friends are amazed at how I fly by the seat of my pants.
That same summer I would wake up and have my cup of coffee and peruse the
travel book I kept on the kitchen table. Should we go to the Science Museum
or go see the statue of Peter Pan in Hyde Park? No, we should definitely
jump on a train and head down to Brighton Beach. Fifteen minutes later with
an empty backpack and two kids in tow we would be out the door, only phoning
hubby when we were on the train. That summer we did visit the museums that
London offered but we also saw the tunnels under Dover Castle and Deer Park
behind Windsor Castle. And countless other far flung places, all on the
spur of the moment.
A couple of years later we moved outside of London to the village of
Wimbledon. I loved it. My favorite part was my getting lost runs or bikes.
I would head out the front door with twenty pounds and a credit card in my
pocket and just run or ride. I would go for hours. I would turn down any
road that looked interesting. With running, this usually meant a trip into
the city. Through Chatham and the busy traffic, along the Thames Path and
around the city or out the other side into East London. On my bike I was
known to go as far out as Windsor which was some fifty miles away. Either
way I would keep an eye out for towns that had train stations and use the
train to get back home. Getting lost runs were the best.
I am also the person who gets excited every time my husband mentions the
possibility of living in some exotic foreign country. He came home a few
months ago and asked what I would think about living in Dubai. “Sure,” I
said, “Where is it?” Hong Kong? Let’s go. Singpore? No problem.
So maybe I am a free spirit. Well, sort of, I guess. Four year ago we
moved back to Maryland. Apparently just a mile from the picturesque Severn
River. I say apparently because four days a week for the past four years,
that is eight hundred and thirty two times, I have run out of my
neighborhood and headed left. I thought I was being adventurous. No
neighborhood running for me. I would head left which would give me the
option of two different trails or a small wooded park. I wouldn’t be caught
dead running through the streets of our neighborhood. I was too adventurous
for that. Which explains why I never went right. Going right I could
either run on the main road up toward the high school or cross the road into
another section of our neighborhood and run on the neighborhood streets.
Why on earth would I want to do that? I had never even driven in that part
of the neighborhood so why would I run there?
I am not sure how the body of water on my GPS in my SUV never registered in
my brain but quite clearly it didn’t. And then yesterday for the first time
in four years I decided I wasn’t really up for the same run. I couldn’t
face any of my three choices. So, gasp, I went right. I went right and ran
through the other section of our neighborhood. But here is what I
discovered. There is another entrance into our neighborhood which was
apparently the original entrance. Wow, that was something I didn’t know
before. But even more important discoveries were to follow. If you go out
of that original entrance there is a whole world I have never seen. First
of all there are actual hills. Hills that I have been complaining about
missing since we moved back from the rolling hills of Surrey. These new
hills were big rolling hills that rolled their way right down to, you guessed
it, right down to the water’s edge. The minute I saw it I wanted to run
home and tell my husband about my discovery but I didn’t. I ran along the
banks of the river and watched the geese fly low over the water. I watched
the kayaks out for a just before dusk paddle and I marveled at my discovery.
I started fantasizing about my next run. I will run at daybreak and watch
the sun rise. I will run here in the summer when the water will cool the
air. I will run here with my baby in the jog stroller and take my time
while he hunts for the blue heron on the banks. Once I came out of my
reverie, I turned around and ran as fast as my short little legs would carry
me back to my house to drag my husband along the same route before the sun
went down. I am proud to say that my husband was just as clueless as I had
been but also just as amazed by the beauty of the discovery.
Here I am, the lady who friends call when they want to venture into DC or
take a road trip to the far reaches of the Maryland, Virginia or
Pennsylvania countryside because I am the most adventurous person they know.
Here I am, the lady who flies by the seat of her pants and hops a train on a
moment’s notice. Here I am, the lady who is not afraid to move half way
across the world or to get lost in a foreign land. But here I am, the lady
who lives a mile from one of the most beautiful places in the world and took
four years and eight hundred and thirty two attempts to find it. So who am
I? What have I discovered? I think it is that I am a discoverer with a
rigid spirit that bends only under more discovery. So out I will head. Out
my door and around every corner to a new discovery of the world around me.
Previously published in the May/June edition of the Washington Running Report